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Liturgical Press Understanding the Sacraments: Penance

Sacraments are at the heart of our lives as Catholics, the way we celebrate together our continuing conversion and encounter with God. Sacramental preparation is essential if we are to experience the fullness of our life in community and in Christ. Ever conscious of the complex history of the church and its dynamic relationship to ritual, Father Lawrence Mick gives us these booklets-based on individual chapters of his popular Understanding the Sacraments Today-as a companion to the ongoing and repeated practices that nourish us.

Of the seven sacraments, penance, particularly the reform of the sacrament since the Second Vatican Council, may be the least understood. The practice of the sacrament has ranged from a once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn from sin to a heavily attended weekly ritual. Penances have ranged from harsh tasks that might take a lifetime to accomplish, to a set of simple prayers said hurriedly before leaving the church. The sacrament has been called confession, penance, and most recently, reconciliation, reflecting the shifting emphasis from one element of the sacrament to another. Father Mick offers a look at the history and reorients our approach to this sacrament of mercy, the true purpose of which is to foster spiritual growth and ongoing conversion in our life as a community and individuals.
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